To avoid depression and weight gain and lower risk of gestational diabetes, pregnant women are urged to exercise, particularly during the second trimester.

A team of researchers from the George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust and Warwick University recruited 1,263 pregnant women for a study that sought to find the link between depression and sedentary behavior during pregnancy.

The women shared their level of physical fitness or activity as well as emotional well-being during the first and second trimester of their pregnancy. The researchers also factored in the women's socio-economic status and body mass index.

Researchers found that pregnant women who sat a lot during this period had more symptoms of depression compared to women who had some of exercise or physical activity. The study participants who spent less amounts of moderate or intense physical activity had substantial weight gain during the first and second trimester. Moreover, they had higher levels of glucose in the blood during their 28th week of pregnancy, which suggests higher risks of developing gestational diabetes.

"Pregnant women could benefit from early intervention to improve their physical and mental health and reduce the risks associated with sedentary behavior," said Warwick Medical School researcher and study author Nithya Sukumar. It is vital that pregnant women reduce the amount of time they spent sitting down to lower the risk of gestational diabetes, which can increase childbirth complications and risks for both mother and child, Sukumar added.

Study co-author Ponnusamy Saravanan added that in terms of public health advisory, urging pregnant women to take breaks from sitting time can be easier to implement compared to increasing their level of physical activity. Saravanan stressed that they believe a reduction in the time spent sitting down can lower the risk of gestational diabetes for the mother as well as reduce the metabolic risks of the baby.

The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests that pregnant women should first seek advice from their doctors to ensure that they are in a good state of health to perform moderate to vigorous exercise during pregnancy. This is to avoid any complications that could harm both mother and child if the pregnant woman has an underlying medical condition.

Apart from keeping weight gain at bay, exercise can help expectant mothers feel better as well as prevent discomfort during the months of pregnancy. The added energy, increased stamina and improved muscles gained from exercise can also help prepare the woman's body for labor.

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